Noise – it permeates our environment – internally and externally, causing anxiety, distraction, and detours from our calling.
“Uncluttering Noise and Busyness” is the second of a two-part series here on Healthy Spirituality. This topic was frequently mentioned in last fall’s readers’ survey and in comments so I know this is an issue for many of us. Also, January is a natural month to declutter and tidy things up – why not also get your heart and mind in order?
Last Tuesday we explored external noise and ideas to manage noise and busy and you can read about my fun with “un” words giving suggestions for the outside noise and hastiness that bombard our lives.
But what about internal noise and busyness? I think this environment is perhaps more difficult to pin point and manage.
Internal Noise and Busyness
What is internal noise and busyness?
Internal noise is the voice inside us that constantly chatters. We speak to ourselves continually, creating clamor that drones on and on. Examples of internal noise could be:
- thinking of what words to say in reply to a conversation
- belittling ourselves for a silly mistake
- repeating words to our hearts that someone from our childhood told us that are no longer true or never were true
- Worry that we won’t get everything done or done in an acceptable manner that may lead to rejection or ridicule
- Reviewing our to do list or rehashing an interaction that occurred hours or days before instead of being in the present
- Judging others or evaluating ourselves, comparing how we fit or don’t fit in in an attempt to understand a situation from our frame of reference
- Imagining the worse that might happen or rambling down a rabbit trail of unfounded inventiveness
- Praying for the person in front of you
Most of these monologues are not bad, they just distract us from fully listening and fully aware of the present.
The internal noise stirs up inner anxiety or internal busyness. The constant churning of chitchat, the unrest of monitoring emotions, and the blare of our own thoughts distract us from God’s joy in the moment, being aware of love in the present, and hearing God’s voice throughout the day.
The major difficulty with internal busyness is that is never goes away.
Too Busy? Is a great article to read about internal noise and busyness containing some interesting research and tips.
Managing Internal Noise and Busyness
Last January I wrote a blog post about creating a sacred space within us. I think the tips then still work today so am repeating them here.
- Rituals invite me into silence and stillness. I bow and ask God to be present with me. I take a few deep breaths. Other ideas are: beginning with my favorite breath prayers. Lighting a candle. Playing soft music. Reading the scriptures. Writing my prayers and current experiences in a journal. All patterns to open the door to go deeper.
- Routines of good sleep, staying nourished and well-hydrated and walking. Good self-care of my body compliments good soul-care.
- Reducing cyberspace. The chatter of social media and endless rabbit trails of the Internet distracts me. Turning down the volume of my email chirps and placing boundaries on my computer usage creates more time to be with God.
- Reading settles my spirit into hearing God. Spending time with my Bible, an inspirational devotional and spiritual writings from other sojourners, both living and dead gives me new perspectives, helps me articulate what I am experiencing and offers new ideas to explore.
- Recognize what is going on within your heart. Pay attention and name the feelings. Hear your own voice without the influence of others and the noise from outside. Just talk with Jesus. Don’t make too complicated with churchy words and what you think you are supposed to say. I experienced this type of inner work on a retreat with the help of God and a spiritual director. Slowly I unwrapped my fears and hurts to identified the core emotion of feeling abandoned and how that ruled my behavior. I presented my abandonment to God who healed my brokenness with his love. Difficult inner work yielding more space for God in my heart.
- Reflect on your heart. Imagine your heart. See it uncluttered and God present. How does Christ sit with you?
I love this picture I discovered at a retreat center. This is one image I hold in my heart when I talk with Jesus.
- Remember the practices of stillness and silence. I find you can’t abruptly turn the switch from noise to inner quiet. I love my microwave and the easy flip of the remote control but these tools fail me here. Inner work, going within, digger deeper takes time. Choose quiet. I remember my retreat last year feeling so frustrated as the restlessness and anxiety prevented me from feeling snuggled and settled with God. The second morning I lingered in the quiet chapel and literally experienced “entering silence” like crossing a threshold into a new place.
- Relieve yourself of your burdens. Tackle this challenging question: What takes you from God and blocks you from drawing near to him? My ego loves to maintain control (remember how I love to plan and schedule things?) Remembering I am NOT God, I confess my urge to be my own director in life. My continual prayer is “He, not me.” Knowing and laying aside my flaws, I come to God ready to be transformed in his way.
- Remain with God. This is a new addition to the list I shared last year. Staying present to the moment and how God interacts with me throughout the day. Praying the prayer of examen at night – reviewing the day and noticing where God was present. (Here is blog post about the prayer of examen) Abiding with God quiets my spirit and stills my soul.
“Solitude is not simply a withdrawal from the world in order to be reviewed and refreshed. It is also finding a new center of inner quietness and certitude from which we can act in the midst of a busy and demanding world.”
I don’t have all the answers to managing internal noise and busyness. I do know I am going to try to be more aware of its presence within me and how it is influencing how I feel, react, and process my life.
Soothing and slowing the inner space of my soul steadies and strengthens the outer space of my surroundings.
How about you? Join me in quieting the inner noise and busyness. What helps you to manage it?
Two fun announcements:
- I have created a Facebook group page for us called the Healthy Spirituality Community. Come over and join us there for more inspiration and encouragement.
- I was interviewed for the Prolific Christian Writer podcast. Here is the link if you want to listen.